2014 Top 10 Things that make me pessimistic for the future

A few days ago, we covered the top things in 2014 that made me optimistic, but unfortunately, there were also many things that left me more pessimistic for the future. Here are the top 10 of pessimistic events and trends.
  1. Internet balkanization – One of the unfortunate effects of the Snowden leaks has been previously democratic countries such as Germany and Brazil wanting to join Iran and China in creating their own walled-in pockets of the internet. Add the increased efforts of Russia and Turkey to crack down on internet freedoms in their countries, and the future for an open internet is starting to look bleak.
  2. 5,000 deaths to jihadi terrorism in November – Already before the awful Taliban attack on the school in Pakistan, new statistics had just been released saying that there had been 5,000 deaths due to jihadi terrorism in November alone, a trend that doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime soon. Many of these are perpetrated by Boko Haram, and get much less attention in Western media than similar attacks by ISIS/Al Qaeda offshoots.
  3. Lone wolf attacks – This year has seen an uptick in lone wolf attacks, such as the Sydney cafe hostage situation recently. These kind of lone wolf attacks, which might be inspired by ISIS, but not affiliated with them, are very hard for security agencies to intercept, and seem to be on the increase.
  4. Failure to punish anyone for the financial crisis – The moment for punishing anyone for the financial crisis and making any substantial changes to the unstable parts of the financial system seems now to have passed. It is also striking to see how fines for manipulating interest rates or currency rates, as seen with this year’s Libor and FX scandals, are now seen almost just as an expected cost of doing business.
  5. Europe’s Google war – Instead of trying to stimulate innovation within Europe, several countries in Europe and members of the European Parliament seem instead set on counterproductive measures such as calling for the breakup of Google and implementing “the Google tax”. Not to mention the whole Right to be Forgotten-fiasco. The European Parliament should focus instead of creating local competitors.
  6. 23 and me ban – The US is not immune to putting in place bans on innovative companies, as we have seen with the ban on 23 and me to continue their revolutionary genome mapping service. We are just in the beginning of the genomics revolution, but it seems backward by the FDA to ban 23 and me from continuing their service.
  7. Crime as a service – As everything goes on-demand over the internet, apparently a new trend is crime as a service, where teams of hackers can be hired for a cheap sum to perform cybercrimes. This might even have been the case in the Sony hack.
  8. Antibiotic super-resistance – This year has seen a continue uptick in hospital cases of antibiotic resistance, due to over usage for livestock and over-prescription to unnecessary illnesses. This risks setting us back to the middle ages. The recent acquisition by Merck of Cubist shows the huge need in this area.
  9. The Third Industrial Revolution from a global equality perspective – While 3d-printing and additive manufacturing techniques seem set to bring about massive productivity gains in developed countries, there is also a fear that this means that the next set of countries won’t see the uptick in living standards that the last set of production countries (China, East Asia) saw by being the factories for the world.
  10. Technological innovation driving returns to capital rather than labor – It is an unfortunate side effect of technological innovation that, while the service benefits might be shared among the many, the financial benefits tend to accrue only to existing capital, due to the tendency of new innovations to create monopolies and lower the cost of inputs such as labor.

2014 Top 10 Historic Moments Echoing During the Year

2014 has been a year when the wings of history have been unusually prevalent throughout. Here are the historic events that perhaps reverberated the most during the year:
  1. The onset of World War I, given its hundred-year anniversary this year, and the many apt comparisons that can be made between the declining empire of the time (Britain) and now (the US), and the path of the rising power then (Germany) and now (China).
  2. The French Revolution, given the rising levels of inequality in the world and the many unfinished or unstarted revolutions that we are seeing.
  3. The Westphalian peace of 1648, given the annexation of Ukraine and the feeling among many that this spells the end of the Westphalian system, and the decline of the nation state.
  4. The dawn of the space age in the 60’s, as the debate over the value of space missions heats up again, new space powers are created in India and China, and Elon Musk stresses the necessity of taking the human race to Mars (and saying he wants to do die there)
  5. The fall of the Berlin Wall, given its 25 year anniversary this year, and with the sensation in Europe of a new Cold War brewing, and new kinds of walls being created
  6. Tiananmen Square, given its 25 year anniversary this year and the fear held for a while that Hong Kong protests might face a similarly tragical ending.
  7. The Victorian Era, given that it was the time of the second industrial revolution, the last time that history was speeding up to the same extent that we are seeing now, with exponential growth in the dawn of the third industrial revolution.
  8. Pre-World Wars era of rising wealth concentration, as per Piketty’s analysis of how 1930-1975 was an aberration in terms of falling inequality and wealth-wage gap.
  9. Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 – the time when colonial powers drew up random borders in the Middle East, borders that are now crumbling as ISIS wreaks havoc and captures territory based on sectarian belonging rather than national.
  10. Selma 1965 – With Ferguson burning, we looked back at Selma and mourned the slow pace of change.